O’Hanlon: Obama and Clinton ‘Both Fail On Iraq’

ohanlon-02-11.jpgIt’s grading season for Brookings analyst Michael O’Hanlon. Just a few weeks ago, he gave President Bush a “gentleman’s B” on Iran and a “B+” on the recent de-Baathification reforms in Iraq. While Bush has fared well in O’Hanlon’s book, the Democratic presidential candidates have not. In an interview with the Washington Times, he says that Obama and Clinton “both fail on Iraq“:

I’m troubled about what they both say about Iraq. He’s the one who wants to get out very fast, unconditionally, and to some extent, he’s pulled her along,” Mr. O’Hanlon said. […]

Still, if you add up all of their differences, they both fail on Iraq. They both would get out very fast. They both are advocating a policy that unless significantly modified would lead to a reversal of our military progress in 2007,” he said.

While there have been significant reductions in violence over the past year in Iraq, “progress” in Baghdad is relative to the “pure hell” of 2006. The International Crisis Group warned in a new report that the existing ceasefire among Iraq’s ethnic groups is “exceedingly frail.” And U.S. casualties have begun to increase, rising to the highest levels in the past four months.

Absent from this Washington Times article, of course, is how often O’Hanlon himself has failed on Iraq. In 2004, he favored a timeline for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq because, in his words, occupation “breeds cynicism among Iraqis that we are like the colonialists of old, planning to stay indefinitely.”

Since then, however, O’Hanlon has not only supported Bush’s so-called troop “surge,” but he has also advocated for a long-term occupation of Iraq. And he has repeatedly provided cover for the administration’s failing policy:

— “There are good reasons to give the war effort, now almost four years old, another six to nine months before concluding that the current strategy should be discarded and a much different on.” [03/01/07]

— “It’s basically saying nothing more dramatic than give it six more months or so, maybe nine more months.” [08/05/07]

— “But I think this is a very complex subject and could easily see myself changing camps in the next six to nine months.” [09/13/07]

O’Hanlon’s latest “six month” deadline to change his position on Iraq is set to expire next month — at which point he will likely blame someone else for failure.